Meet Neymar’s former partner in crime who's setting Serie A alight

Serie A expert Alasdair Mackenzie profiles the Lazio wingman finally coming good in Italy after formerly providing for Brazil's prized prince...

The 60-second story

FACT FILE

  • Full name: Felipe Anderson Pereira Gomes
  • Date of birth: April 15, 1993
  • Place of birth: Brasilia, Brazil
  • Height: 5ft 8in
  • Position: Forward
  • Current club: Lazio; 37 apps, 6 goals
  • Former club: Santos
  • National team: Brazil U20; 6 apps, 1 goal

For a 21-year-old, Brazilian Felipe Anderson has already gone through a lot in his career. Since his Santos debut at 17, the attacking midfielder has experienced Copa Libertadores glory, Club World Cup heartbreak and played alongside the greatest talent of his generation, Neymar.

As Santos stormed to Libertadores success in 2011, the eyes of the world were focused on the dazzling performances of the young striker who would soon become a national talisman. But team-mate Anderson was flourishing playing behind Neymar and began to turn heads himself. Before his 20th birthday he'd made 65 appearances for Santos and scored seven goals.

Lazio came calling in the summer of 2013 and convinced the talented winger to up sticks and move to Rome. Their belief in his potential was evident by the £6.6 million transfer fee, a significant figure in the cash-strapped environs of Serie A, and not least from a club whose president Claudio Lotito has such a taste for thriftiness that enraged fans have staged empty-stadium protests against his ownership as recently as the end of last season.

The results were initially disappointing. The youngster had problems adapting to the big changes in his life, both on the pitch and off it.

In his 13 league appearances last season the young Brazilian failed to score or make any real suggestion that he deserved to be on the team-sheet during a poor campaign for the Biancoceleste where they finished ninth.

But after a promising pre-season, Anderson has been impressive this campaign. Under new coach Stefano Pioli the 21-year-old has flourished and recently hit the form of his life, eradicating his early-season inconsistency to produce four goals and four assists in as many matches, including a stunning performance against Sampdoria where he scored once and created the other two during the recent 3-0 win.

The Brazil Under-20 international has gone from being a fringe player to Lazio’s most potent attacking threat in the space of a month. Lotito’s hefty investment is finally starting to pay off.

Anderson rose through Santos's youth ranks with Neymar

Why you need to know him

Given Anderson's experiences so far, it is easy to forget his age. At just 21 the Brazilian is still developing both physically and mentally, and the general consensus among Lazio fans is that the best is yet to come.

Serie A is a notoriously difficult league to adjust to, and it is worth bearing in mind the initial struggles of Edinson Cavani following his move to Palermo from Danubio. The striker went on to become one of Italian football’s most dangerous marksmen, and the expectation is that Anderson’s performances will only get better with more game time in Italy’s top flight.

However, it is not only the potential for improvement that makes Anderson such an exciting proposition, but his style of play overall. At his best, he looks almost unplayable; always hungry to be on the ball, beat his man or drop into space.

As he has proved, Anderson is capable of both creating and scoring, to the extent that shell-shocked Sampdoria boss Sinisa Mihajlovic compared the winger to Cristiano Ronaldo after he almost single-handedly dismantled one of the strongest defences in the league.

It even remains unclear what his best position will be. Anderson was originally trained as a trequartista or No.10, but has been deployed to devastating effect as a wide player in Pioli’s favoured 4-3-3 system.

His depth of experience at such a young age is likely to benefit him in the future. Santos’s Libertadores success should help the 21-year-old prepare for the big occasions in Italy, a true test of which will come in this weekend's Rome derby when the youngster faces one of the most ferocious atmospheres in world football.

Strengths

Anderson’s main assets are his pace and acceleration, which he combines with excellent dribbling ability. He likes to take on his man and is confident of beating any defender in a foot race.

The Brazilian has displayed impressive vision in his performances this season. While his eye for a pass has been evident throughout his short career, the deadly finishing shown in his recent glut is a newly-acquired and ever-improving asset.

Some have been instinctive while others, like his strikes against Varese and Sampdoria, have been 25-yard firecrackers. This aspect of his game improves week by week – his early-season form had been characterised by wastefulness in front of goal.

Weaknesses

As mentioned briefly, Anderson was a frustrating player to watch during the early part of this season, and last season. While frequently getting himself into promising positions, his decision-making has been questionable at times and Lazio fans will be hoping that wastefulness is beginning to drift out of his game.

The Brazilian also struggles in physical battles. He isn't one to cause problems in aerial duels, and offers next to no threat in the air. Although he's managed to avoid bullying tactics from big, physical defences so far in Italy, you imagine he could be susceptible to it.

They said…

“Felipe Anderson looked like Cristiano Ronaldo tonight,” beamed Sampdoria boss Sinisa Mihajlovic, who was left confounded after a dazzling display by the Brazilian in Lazio’s 3-0 win at the Stadio Olimpico earlier this month.

“He was the only one who created real problems, he changed the game and was man of the match by a mile. How would I have dealt with him when I was playing? I’d have given him a few kicks, certainly. Mind you, to do that you’ve got to catch him.”

Anderson will hope his recent form has been noticed by Brazil boss Dunga

Did you know?

Before his four-in-four run, Anderson hadn’t scored a single Serie A goal in 24 appearances.

TALENTSPOTTER RATINGS

  • Shooting 7
  • Heading 3
  • Passing 7
  • Tackling 3
  • Pace 8
  • Dribbling 8
  • Creativity 8
  • Work-rate 7

What happens next?

First of all, Lazio coach Pioli will have to do everything he can to keep the youngster’s feet on the ground and ensure his good form continues. Since replacing Edy Reja in the summer, Pioli has introduced a new style of play to the Romans that has not only made them easier on the eye, but launched them into Champions League contention as they battle with Napoli for third place. Should they qualify for Europe’s premier club competition and Anderson replicates his recent displays, Lazio could face a flurry of interest from clubs around the continent. There is now a healthy competition for places in the Biancoceleste squad, with Italy star Antonio Candreva, club captain Stefano Mauri, pacy wonderkid Keita Balde Diao and Anderson all vying for two places. A drop in form, therefore, will not be tolerated. The Brazilian won't be short of motivation to continue his scintillating run.